SPECIAL REPORT: Clean Diesel - ULSD Fuel

wny_pat

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Longsnowsm,
Recommend your post. I come from a Railroad family. Live on what use to be the most direct, safest "signal" rail route from NYC to Chicago. Conrail systematically tore it apart down to one way line and then abandoned it. Empty rail yards, including the iron rails and ties, all across the southerntier of NYS, thru Pa. and into Ohio. Did not even bother to pay their property tax to local governments. Three local county governments had to band together to get a short rail line up and running. Basically your federal tax money in the form of a grant. Top speed is about 20 mph because of the mess left by Conrail. This is what is left of the once great Erie RR, later know as the Erie Lackawanna RR. Many men who work that trackage would turn over in their graves if they could see what has happen to it today. All this to bail out the rail lines favored by certain powerful and connected CEOs, without regard of what was best for the country.

Same thing with trucking deregulation.

Guess I'm rambleing, cause I should be talking about Clean Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel and its relationship to our TDIs. Hopefully it will make for a cleaner EGR valve and cleaner intake. And with the new 506.01 motor oils longer OCIs.
 

DrStink

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wny_pat said:
Longsnowsm,
Recommend your post. I come from a Railroad family. Live on what use to be the most direct, safest "signal" rail route from NYC to Chicago. Conrail systematically tore it apart down to one way line and then abandoned it. Empty rail yards, including the iron rails and ties, all across the southerntier of NYS, thru Pa. and into Ohio. Did not even bother to pay their property tax to local governments. Three local county governments had to band together to get a short rail line up and running. Basically your federal tax money in the form of a grant. Top speed is about 20 mph because of the mess left by Conrail.
First, let me agree with Pat - great post Longsnowsm.

Second, since I already hijacked this thread once, I might as well finish the thought.

Yes, the rail system in this country is seriously f'd up thanks to years and years of neglect. Your example of Conrail's single tracking followed by neglect is a great example.

Here in CT, the state is talking about spending 30+ million dollars to restore double tracking on 38 miles of the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield line - that's a heck of a lot of money just to put something back to the way it was twenty years ago.

But...(you knew a but was coming)...at least the ROW still exists in many (most?) places, even if the track itself is neglected or even completely nonexistant. Given national feeling these days on eminent domain, I think anything that minimizes the taking of property is key to the political viability of a transportation project.

And then there is the cost issue - highways aren't exactly cheap. In 1996 dollars, the FHA estimates the "weighted rural and urban combined" costs per mile of interstate highway to be $20.6 million. In LA, carpool lanes cost $2.5 million per mile. Source

So yes, rebuilding the rail infrastructure is going to be insanely expensive and take a very long time - but it's still going to be cheaper in the long run. And more energy efficient to boot.
 

overbite

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The rail row might exist, but those trians will have to compete with bicycles since a majoirty of the minor ROW have been converted to bike paths.

Speaking of gov't money and trians DM&E wants 2.5 billion of your hard earned tax dollars to haul coal. That will help "rolleyes"
 

b4black

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cptmox said:
great read!

I could see some stations with only one tank designated for diesel using the ULSD excuse to employ some good ole American price gouging.

As for lubricity, that is more reason to use some degree of BD. B20 should just about do ya.
Are you sure you read the article? It says that all diesel already has a lubricity additive in it. No need for biodiesel. Certainly not 20%.
 

Steve-o

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b4black said:
Are you sure you read the article? It says that all diesel already has a lubricity additive in it. No need for biodiesel. Certainly not 20%.
The article mentioned that ULSD has lower lubricity than current LSD. Since many of us are either using some percentage of biodiesel or an additive now to improve lubricity (or at least keep it above some minimum level), either we continue to pour additives or biodiesel into our tanks or we take it on faith that companies already strapped financially by this conversion will spend the appropriate amount of time and money on adding a proper package of lubricity additives. My money is on my continued use of biodiesel or additives.
 

b4black

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There is a spec to has to be met by law. ULSD base fuel has poorer lubricty than LSD base fuel which means it needs more additive, which it gets to be legal.

The amount of additive needed is about 200 ppm - not very much. Anybody using biodiesel or aftermarket additives in order to improver lubricity is wasting money. More is not better, once it has enough, that's all it needs.
 

sdean7855

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Getting out the sulfur

saw a piece on the Canadian tar fields oil refinery, maybe on the Natl Geographic channel....Massive, massive refinery....but the thing they hardly mentioned, but which knocked me out, was this *enormous* step-pyramid...an 1/8 mile or so on a side...of extracted sulfur....yellow of course. One has visions of an array of hundreds of these by the time the tars play out...and what will later civilization think of them?

My name is Ozamandias, King of Kings...look on my sulfur dumps, ye mighty and despair!
 

Longsnowsm

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After reading the article, and the talk about the testing and wear scar data that is permitted I still do not feel comfortable that things are going to go smoothly and that fuel quality will be in question for a while until this gets sorted out. Sorta like the controversy of using Biodiesel and the questions around quality fuels and complying with the rules for the fuels standards. Fuel quality is all over the map, and the effects can be bad news.

I know speaking for myself I will continue to use B20 in my car, and I will be adding a fuel additive to increase lubricity, and fuel system cleaning ability to the mix to make sure it is all good.

Maybe by this time next year we can all take a deep sigh of relief that nothing bad happened and the new fuel looks good. Fingers crossed, but taking no chances here.

Longsnowsm
 

Steve-o

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b4black said:
The amount of additive needed is about 200 ppm - not very much. Anybody using biodiesel or aftermarket additives in order to improver lubricity is wasting money. More is not better, once it has enough, that's all it needs.
Only 50 ppm moves fuel from ULSD to LSD and the OP's linked article mentions that 50 ppm can be picked up just in transmission. 200 ppm, relatively speaking, is a lot. Go ahead and trust the oil companies with your car if you want; it's no skin off my nose. I'll continue my insurance policy of using either biodiesel or an additive. It may be a waste of money or it may be what makes sure that the fuel I use meets the standards regardless of the shortcuts anyone else took.
 

Smokerr

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Good find, there are a few items of comment.

1. According to the article I found on the switch to ULSD up here, it will take 12 turns for a tank to be in compliance of less than 15ppm.

2. Cetane is not a happenstance result of the process, it is part of the mandated package (same as the lubricity and less than 15ppm). I believe its minimum 48 (up from 40 I think for the “old stuff”. The 2007 emissions diesel requires it.
Comments have been it will be a bit better than that (closer to 50) as they make sure its higher when shipped, to ensure its 48 or better at the service station.

3. I though the “stalling in the cold” was an odd remark, of course you are going to use #1 in the winter (or an additive if its just an occasional cold temp situation). I am skeptical that any bus company would try to run #1 in the summer.

I know this is not true for everyone, but they started moving ULSD up here into the system last month, and from the performance increase, its in the service station tanks now. We got a jump in fuel mileage, and better in town performance (and hill climbing).

We are not typical up here, we had a “special” sulfur exemption, allowing 1,000ppm, and The TDI did not like it at all (a lot of smoke until I put in an additive). If we had the 500 ppm, maybe not seen that much difference.
 

Smokerr

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Steve-o said:
The article mentioned that ULSD has lower lubricity than current LSD. Since many of us are either using some percentage of biodiesel or an additive now to improve lubricity (or at least keep it above some minimum level), either we continue to pour additives or biodiesel into our tanks or we take it on faith that companies already strapped financially by this conversion will spend the appropriate amount of time and money on adding a proper package of lubricity additives. My money is on my continued use of biodiesel or additives.
The conspiracy theorists run rampant once again.

For those not into Black Helicopters after you (at least all the time), the new specification has three parts I know of. As they are all part of the 2007 diesel specification mandated by the Feds, a refinery cannot violate any one of those without major fines.

You have to have
1. Cetane of 48 or better, or you violate the EPA
2. Lubricity to levels higher than previous, or you violate the EPA
3. The Less than 15ppm sulfur (which everyone knows violates the EPA.

Any failure to meet all three will get the violate in deep doggy do do (that means Guantanamo Bay these days!)

Can there be a bust, yep- is it likely, I seriously do not think so, there will be a lot of checks along the way, fines are really serious.

Once I see the ULSD on the pump I stop the additive, winter as well, as I originally put it in for the winter fuel situation, but that will be covered by the lubricity additive, and much better ops with higher cetane, not to mention no crapping up the system with the sulfur (YIPEEE)

From the recent performance increase with the car, and what I have found out, we are getting it now (not labels, tanks still being turned, but a marked increased in mpg.
 

Dennis P Roth

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Further reading on ULSD

Chevron on ULSD
http://www.chevron.com/products/prodserv/fuels/diesel/ulsd.shtml#A10
Excerpt:
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]How will diesel fuel properties, other than sulfur, change with S15 (ULSD)?[/FONT] [FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]There are several diesel fuel properties other than sulfur that will change as a result of moving to S15 (ULSD).[/FONT]
  • [FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Lubricity:[/FONT]
  • [FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]Lubricity is a measure of the fuel's ability to lubricate and protect the various parts of the engine's fuel injection system from wear.The processing required to reduce sulfur to 15 ppm also removes naturally-occurring lubricity agents in diesel fuel. To manage this change the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) adopted the lubricity specification defined in ASTM D975 for all diesel fuels and this standard went into effect January 1, 2005.[/FONT]
  • [FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]The D975 specification is based on the High Frequency Reciprocating Rig (HFRR) test (D 6079) and requires a wear scar no larger than 520 microns.

    Energy Content:[/FONT]
  • [FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]In general, the processing required to reduce sulfur to 15 ppm also reduces the aromatics content and density of diesel fuel, resulting in a reduction in energy content (BTU/gal).[/FONT]
  • [FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]The expected reduction in energy content is on the order of 1% and may affect fuel mileage.

    Cetane Number:[/FONT]
  • [FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]In general, the processing required to reduce sulfur to 15ppm also reduces the aromatics content resulting in an increase to the cetane number.[/FONT]
BP on ULSD
http://ecdiesel.com/environment/ulsd_qa.asp#06
Excerpt:
[/FONT] Will the lubricity in #2 diesel change? Will there be any impact on engine warranties?
While the base fuel's lubricity is changing, the finished fuel will include a lubricity additive to assure that it meets vehicle performance requirements. The nation-wide rollout of lubricity treatment of diesel fuel this year is in preparation for the transition to ULSD in 2006.
The fuel, engine, and engine component industries have worked cooperatively over the last few years to address the issue of ULSD lubricity, resulting in an industry-wide consensus standard. ASTM International is in the process of establishing consensus standard testing equipment, specifications, and practices that will be fully implemented before June 2006. BP is fully engaged in this effort.
Fleet owners should always consult the appropriate vehicle equipment manufacturer regarding warranty information.




May issue of Light and Medium Truxk on ULSD, worried about availability, contamination, and supply disruptions.
http://www.ttnews.com/lmt/May06/ultra.asp



April issue of Bulk Transporter, worried about contamination and logistical challenges.
http://bulktransporter.com/mag/transportation_ulsd_urgency/



American Truking Associations on ULSD, worried about liablitiy for off spec fuel and the cost of testing.
http://www.truckline.com/issues/governmentpolicy/environment/ulsd

Excerpt on fuel economy penalty:

Will there be a fuel economy penalty associated with ULSD use?

According to the DOE, the energy content of ULSD will decline by 0.5 percent compared to current on-road diesel fuel. The National Petrochemical and Refining Association estimated a range of 1 to 4 percent in comments to the rulemaking docket. Other estimates have placed the energy differential at between 0.2 percent and 0.7 percent. There are many variables that impact the energy value of fuel, including the feedstock refineries begin with. As such, it is difficult to estimate the impact that the transition to ULSD will have on the average energy content of on-road diesel fuel until the requirement is fully implemented.



I predict that the additive makers will exploit the public confusion about the transition to ULSD to sell many more bottles of additives and fuel pills.
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif]

[/FONT]
 

Smokerr

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True, as well as the conspiracy guys who just don't accept that its a solid standard, though they probably don't (didn't) put any stuff in their gasoline when the sulfur went away!
 

Smokerr

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They keep dancing around the cetane figure, but I have it someplace in my files that it has to be 48 minimum (they can go higher, and it said they would by about 2 cetane to ensure end use has it.

Eupope I believe is mandated 50 cetane or better.

If my reading was right, they will add cetane improvers to get it to their internal requirements, and it will be at least 48 at the station.
 

b4black

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There is absolutely no requirement for cetane to be above 40. :eek:



The EPA is only mandating sulfur levels. The only have jurisdiction over emissions. Cetane and Lubricty is fuel performance and part of the ASTM spec (which is law in most states).


:)
 

Dennis P Roth

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Refiners must start USLD production Thursday

Hard to believe its finally coming.
http://www.nacsonline.com/NR/exeres/0000711alpfizawytsgoyzgd/NewsPosting.asp?NRMODE=Published&NRORIGINALURL=%2fNACS%2fNews%2fnd0526064%2ehtm&NRNODEGUID=%7bD8704E76-3AB8-4987-A40C-4D77F2455BFF%7d&NRQUERYTERMINATOR=1&cookie%5Ftest=1http://www.nacsonline.com/NACS/News/nd0526064.htm

May 26, 2006 WASHINGTON -- The petroleum industry has been working for more than four years in preparation for the implementation of ultra low sulfur diesel (ULSD) fuel. Next Thursday, June 1, the first phase of the implementation begins as refiners are required to produce at least 80 percent of their diesel volume with no more than 15 parts per millions. In addition, retailers must begin affixing proper labels to all diesel fuel products, including kerosene and additives.
It is generally expected that refinery production will be closer to the 7 or 8 parts per million level, which is intended to provide the distribution system additional flexibility to delivery compliant product to retail. But there remains work to be done. Between June 1 and August 31, terminals are authorized to sell as "ULSD" fuel containing up to 22 parts per million sulfur. This will provide them with an opportunity to turn their storage tanks and improve their handling of the product before they have to certify full compliance with the 15 parts per million standard. Effective September 1, any product leaving the terminal labeled as "ULSD" must not exceed 15 parts per million.

Retailers selling any type of diesel fuel, independent of their decision to sell ULSD, must affix proper labels identifying product as either 500 parts per million or 15 parts per million. In addition, product transfer documents must contain certain information, including the name and address of the transferor and transferee, volume being transferred, location and date at time of transfer and an official statement properly identifying the product. Approved statements for product transfer documents and text of approved labels, including where labels may be obtained, is included the attached memorandum (PDF).

Retailers choosing to sell ULSD may begin doing so at any time. However, they must meet regulatory standards for sulfur content before they can label fuel as "ULSD." Between June and October 14, retailers may label as "ULSD" fuel containing no more than 22 parts per million sulfur. This will give them time to convert their systems to ensure product integrity. On October 15, however, any fuel sold as "ULSD" must not exceed 15 parts per million sulfur.

EPA has provided some flexibility to the market by allowing up to 3 parts per million variation in testing tolerances, essentially acknowledging that testing for sulfur content that low remains imperfect.

If a retailer chooses to sell ULSD, it is essential that the retailer communicate with its distributor to ensure availability of product and obtain assurances that product will meet EPA specifications as outlined above. There are concerns about the sulfur content of product leaving the terminals and the ability of the distribution channel to maintain product compliance. If fuel leaves the terminal at 15 parts per million, there is no flexibility available to the distribution and retail channels of trade. Therefore, retailers are advised to obtain as much information from their suppliers as possible before making a decision. It is the retailer's responsibility to ensure the integrity of the product sold through his or her facilities. This can be accomplished in a specific way as outlined by the regulations.

First, a retailer must demonstrate through the presentation of product transfer documents that all ULSD delivered to the facility was certified as compliant by the distributor. In addition, a retailer must have its own credible quality assurance program (QAP) designed to protect the integrity of the product once it is delivered. This could include testing every batch or a variation thereof. Finally, a retailer must be able to demonstrate that contamination of the product was not caused by the retailer. It is uncertain at this point how EPA plans to enforce the regulations at retail, but any retailer choosing to sell diesel fuel as "ULSD" must take every precaution to ensure compliance with the sulfur standards.
 
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TornadoRed

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Dennis P Roth said:
It is generally expected that refinery production will be closer to the 7 or 8 parts per million level, which is intended to provide the distribution system additional flexibility to delivery compliant product to retail....
Between June 1 and August 31, terminals are authorized to sell as "ULSD" fuel containing up to 22 parts per million sulfur.... Effective September 1, any product leaving the terminal labeled as "ULSD" must not exceed 15 parts per million...
Between June and October 14, retailers may label as "ULSD" fuel containing no more than 22 parts per million sulfur. This will give them time to convert their systems to ensure product integrity. On October 15, however, any fuel sold as "ULSD" must not exceed 15 parts per million sulfur.

EPA has provided some flexibility to the market by allowing up to 3 parts per million variation in testing tolerances, essentially acknowledging that testing for sulfur content that low remains imperfect.
... If fuel leaves the terminal at 15 parts per million, there is no flexibility available to the distribution and retail channels of trade. Therefore, retailers are advised to obtain as much information from their suppliers as possible before making a decision. It is the retailer's responsibility to ensure the integrity of the product sold through his or her facilities. ... a retailer must be able to demonstrate that contamination of the product was not caused by the retailer.
This is all good information -- a bit complicated because of the different dates of compliance at each level of production and distribution, but still fairly straightforward.

Something stands out clearly to me: the EPA has tried very hard to make this transition go as smoothly as possible.

Contrast this to the clusterf**k created by Congress, when it mandated a switch from MTBE to ethanol, at the same time as refiners were changing over to summer gasoline formulas, at the same time that refiners were performing delayed maintenance following Katrina and Rita.

Even in the latter situation, it was the EPA that tried to ease the winter-to-summer changeover. As a result, prices went up but there were no regional shortages AFAIK.

A few notes about the recent EPA ULSD regs:
1) The 3 ppm variation being allowed for testing errors is temporary. After two years it will revert to a 2 ppm variation.

2) Very interesting:
Biodiesel blenders are eligible for a tax credit for the volume of biodiesel that is blended into petroleum-based diesel for fuel use. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires that to receive the tax credit, the biodiesel blend must contain at least one tenth of one percent petroleum based diesel fuel (referred to as B99.9). To become eligible for this tax credit, upstream parties sometimes manufacture B99.9 for use downstream to produce finished biodiesel blends.

B100 and B99.9 meet the IRS definition of an “excluded liquid” and thus are not subject to federal fuel excise taxes.At the point where an excluded liquid is blended with a sufficient quantity of petroleum-based diesel fuel so that the final fuel blend contains at least 4 percent normal paraffins [B96?], such liquid ceases to be an excluded liquid, and the volume of previously excluded liquid becomes subject to federal fuel excise taxes.
B80 blends or higher are to be classified as non-petroleum (NP) diesel fuels. "Non-petroleum diesel (NP diesel) means a diesel fuel that contains at least 80 percent mono-alkyl esters of long chain fatty acids derived from vegetable oils or animal fats."

3) Additives which increase conductivity and reduce the likelihood of static electricity discharges resulting in fuel fires may be added at tank farms, as long as they do not increase the sulfur content by more than 0.4 ppm.

Also, the red dye added to off-road diesel may not increase the sulfur by more than 0.04 ppm.
 

Dennis P Roth

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TornadoRed said:
Contrast this to the clusterf**k created by Congress, when it mandated a switch from MTBE to ethanol
I believe the EPA came out with the proposed change in May of 2001 so the industry knew it was coming for five years and has had more than four years to make changes to the refineries and terminals. Also the mandate coming in stages, first the refineries, then the terminals, and finally the retail outlets was designed to minimize the disruption in supply. Allowing the normal turn over in tank inventories to get the fuel supply down from 500 ppm to 15 ppm. Also the EPA consulted with industry to make sure the transition would go smoothly.

Congress, in contrast, dropped the ethanol mandate on the industry with less than one year to prepare for it and ignored warnings about the logistical and supply problems from the industy, preferring to believe the Farm and Ethanol lobby that it would be no problem and painless.
 

scooperhsd

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Somethings the federal government tries to do the right thing on. For all the doom and gloom sayers, this looks pretty well thought out with reasonable timelines.
 

b4black

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Contrast this to the clusterf**k created by Congress, when it mandated a switch from MTBE to ethanol, at the same time as refiners were changing over to summer gasoline formulas, at the same time that refiners were performing delayed maintenance following Katrina and Rita.

It's not congress' fault. There is no federal ban on MTBE. There are some states bans and many, many lawyers filing lawsuits.
 

TornadoRed

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b4black said:
It's not congress' fault. There is no federal ban on MTBE. There are some states bans and many, many lawyers filing lawsuits.
In the end, unable to reach a compromise addressing MTBE, House and Senate conferees stripped most of the MTBE provisions from the conference report on H.R. 6. The final version, approved by the House July 28, 2005 and the Senate July 29, and signed into law (P.L. 109-58) by the President August 8, neither bans MTBE use nor provides a safe harbor for its producers, nor does it provide transition assistance for MTBE producers. It does, however, repeal the RFG program’s oxygen requirement and, in place, requires that motor fuels contain 7.5 billion gallons of ethanol or other renewable fuels by 2012 — more than double the amount of 2004 consumption.
from Congressional Research Service Online
http://www.ncseonline.org/NLE/CRSreports/06feb/IB10137.pdf

So, while you are technically correct, congressional action/inaction resulted in a greatly-accelerated phaseout of MTBE. Any refiner that continues to add MTBE to reformulated gasoline (RFG) is just asking to be sued.

As a result, it is entirely fair and appropriate to blame Congress for the recent gasoline supply problems.
 

DrStink

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TornadoRed said:
So, while you are technically correct, congressional action/inaction resulted in a greatly-accelerated phaseout of MTBE. Any refiner that continues to add MTBE to reformulated gasoline (RFG) is just asking to be sued.
Well, based on the Clean Air Act Amendments signed into law in 1990 by President Bush, RFG was required to have *an* oxygenate - not MTBE specifically. Refiners *chose* to use MTBE instead of ethanol. So the blame doesn't lay entirely with Congress in that regard.

Also, even if Congress hadn't not acted, 16 states had already banned MTBE. Here's the list. http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/servicerpt/mtbeban/table1.html
 

Smokerr

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b4black said:
There is absolutely no requirement for cetane to be above 40. :eek:

The EPA is only mandating sulfur levels. The only have jurisdiction over emissions. Cetane and Lubricty is fuel performance and part of the ASTM spec (which is law in most states).:)
I had come across one document that stated cetane levels were part of it, and it was 48. A lot of comments about 45 or so.

If you look at all the literature, cetane also has an affect of emissions, though they start to argue how much above 50.

Still have not found a document that flat says it will be a minimum other than 40.

The Hydro-cracking pushes it up though, so, list me as still confused about some of it.
 

jlanthripp

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Sorry about coming into this thread so late - just got home from 30 days on the road and stumbled across this thread while searching for info on biodiesel...
DrStink said:
If you live by the market, you die by the market Pat.
For the last 40 years, the trucking industry benefited from cheap oil prices and a hidden federal subsidy via in the Interstate Highway act - at the expense of the railroads.
The trucking industry isn't the only industry to benefit from good highways and low oil prices. Everyone who owns anything made from plastic, drives a car, or greases his bicycle chain benefited from cheap oil. And everyone who has driven on the freeway has benefited from the Interstate Highways Act. It's too bad nobody alive is old enough to remember what it was like when the railroads were the only way to move heavy loads over long distances. The railroad companies and their friends, the coal and steel companies, essentially held the nation in their grasp, much like the oil companies are accused of doing today. We've traded one tyrant for another, that's all.
DrStink said:
As trucking costs increase due to fuel prices, rail becomes increasingly competitive. And as profit increases for freight rail, investment will follow. In fact, Norfolk Southern 2006 Q1 operating revenues were the highest in company history - $2.3 billion dollars. And profit increased 57% over Q1 2005.
Rail locomotives run on diesel too - so a price hike affects them as well.
DrStink said:
Trucking is certainly needed for the last 20 or even 100 miles, but the idea that "Without trucks, america stops" is misleading to the point of being fallacious.
Shut down every truck in America and see how long it takes every grocery store in the country to become a building full of empty shelves, or how long it is before 80% of all manufacturing and commerce in the nation ceases. I give it 2 weeks, max.
DrStink said:
To imply that trucks don't have *some* role to play in our countries transportation infrastructure is a strawman that nobody is seriously suggesting. That having been said, we certainly don't need to ship things 3000 or 1500 miles by truck. It may have been cheaper in the past thanks to cheap oil and hidden federal subsidies, but those days are over.
You do need to ship things cross country by truck - if you want those things delivered on time :)

Freight trains in the US haven't been running on time for at least 30 years, probably longer.

Not to mention that unless you're shipping multiple rail cars at a time of whatever it is you're shipping, all of it to the same destination from the same location, trains are a very cost-inefficient, energy-inefficient, and awkward way to move your frieght when compared to trucks.

As of 1998, 77.4% of all freight tonnage shipped domestically in the United States was moved by truck, while only 14.5% was shipped by rail. Figured by dollar value, trucks moved 84.5% of all domestic freight, while rail moved 6.7% of said domestic freight. Can your manufactuing business afford to drop both its raw materials intake and finished product output by 84.5 percent?
 

hank miller

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In 1998 the freight went (by the ton mile) by rail more than 30% of the time, more than double your estimate. (IN 2000 it was 38%, I can't find 1998 numbers, but from what I can tell 35% would be a low estimate)

A large part of rail traffic is intermodal - a truck loads up at one end, drives to the railyard, and loads just the trailer on the train. At the other end the reverse happens. That is because for short distances (50 miles) rail is mostly useless, but for long distance it is very cheap.

While it is true that the railroads are horrible about getting things there on time, much of the shipping where time counts is done by airplane. (At a much higher price) Where time isn't quite that important trucks are used.

http://www.ksg.harvard.edu/taubmancenter/pdfs/working_papers/fagan_vassallo_05_rail.pdf
 
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